Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WikiScanner: Covington & Burling Cleans Up


The law firm Covington & Burling, which has represented both big Tobacco and big Pharma (see here) cleaned up its reputation on Wikipedia. Here's what they deleted, according to a search on WikiScanner...

Mad Cows and Toxic Smoke

In April 2004, the Washington DC newspaper The Hill reported: "Creekstone Farms Quality Beef, which has been battling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get permission to test its cattle for mad cow disease, has hired Covington & Burling to help it make its case."[2]

At the time, Creekstone was one of two U.S. beef producers who were seeking to resume exports to Japan, South Korea and other countries by testing every head of cattle they processed for mad cow disease.

According to a September 2003 press release from the firm, Covington & Burling successfully argued on behalf of the Southern Peru Copper Corporation to drop a lawsuit brought against it under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) by Peruvian citizens charging the copper company with polluting communities and causing health problems. ATCA has been used to address serious human rights violations in places like Burma and East Timor. In their release, Covington & Burling decried the "aggressive, expansionist plaintiffs' litigation" under ATCA.[3]

Covington & Burling also served as corporate affairs consultants to the Philip Morris group of companies, according to a 1993 internal budget review document which indicated the firm was paid $280,000 to "serve as general counsel to the Consumer Products Company Tort Coalition, agree the legal objectives with member company litigators, draft legislation and amendments, prepare lobby papers and testimony for legislative committees and administer the coalition's budget". [4]

During the $280 billion U.S. federal lawsuit against big tobacco, Covington & Burling partner John Rupp, a former lawyer with the industry-funded Tobacco Institute, testified that "the industry sought out scientists and paid them to make an 'objective appraisal' of whether secondhand smoke was harmful to non-smokers, a move they hoped would dispel the 'extreme views' of some anti-smoking activists." He "said the scientists, who came from prestigious institutions such as Georgetown University and the University of Massachusetts, did not consider themselves to be working 'on behalf' of cigarette makers even though they were being paid by the industry." Rupp said, "We were paying them to share their views in forums where they would be usefully presented," according to Reuters. [5]

...they also deleted the following...

Halliburton's Lobbying Partner

In 2003 Halliburton hired the firm to lobby Washington on behalf of its KBR Government Operations division, the same division being pummeled by the media, the Pentagon and Congress for its handling of Iraq contracts. Covington & Burling was paid $520,000 to handle "inquiries concerning company's construction and service contracts in Iraq," the firm said in a filing.

According to the filing, Covington & Burling listed the following people as lobbyists for Halliburton/KBR: Roderick A. DeArment, who was chief of staff to now-retired Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS); Martin B. Gold, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN); Stuart E. Eizenstat, U.S. ambassador to the European Union during the Clinton administration; Alan A. Pemberton, coordinator of the firm's government contracts practice; David M. Marchick, who served in various posts in the Clinton administration; Jack L. Schenendorf; Peter Flanagan; Jennifer Plitsch; Benjamin J. Razi; and Allegra Lane.

Halliburton's lobbying expenses are disclosed in documents submitted under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which requires congressional and executive branch lobbyists to disclose their lobbying activities twice per year. Each year the information is disclosed at the Senate Office of Public Records.

Covington & Burling was kind enough to leave the following text on the Wikipedia site:

Covington & Burling LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 600 lawyers practicing in Brussels, London, New York, San Francisco, and Washington. Founded in 1919, the firm advises leading multinationals on many of their most significant transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters. The firm has long emphasized the strength of its Corporate and Litigation Practices derived from the firm's industry expertise acquired through its broad regulatory expertise. Representative clients include The National Football League, Microsoft, PBS, and The Washington Post. Covington's pro bono program has been recognized as preeminent in the legal community. As part of its pro bono program, the firm has rotation programs, which allow attorneys and staff to work for six months at three local legal services organizations - Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP), the Children's Law Center (CLC), or Bread for the City (BFTC).

Can you say "whitewash," anyone? To discover more Wikipedia edits, do your own investigation at WikiScanner. In fact, I strongly encourage more people to take a few minutes out of their day and start digging. C'mon, Peter Rost, (among others) you know you want to do some WikiScanner searching!

Thanks to an anonymous reader for passing along the tip on C & B.

1 comment:

Stephany said...

wow this is unbelievable, yet not surprising! I love how they left donating time to 'bread for the city'.